Out on Friday November 10
Paddington returns for a feelgood sequel only marmalade haters could resist. Sean Baker delivers a child’s-eye view of lives on a knife-edge. Miles Teller and Josh Brolin put themselves in harm’s way to protect livelihoods. Arnie returns to cinemas.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Paddington 2, The Florida Project, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Only the Brave, Marjorie Prime, Predator, Félicité, Kaleidoscope, and A Caribbean Dream.
For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.
“If you’re kind and polite, the world will be right!” declares Paddington Bear in Paddington 2, the inevitable, and welcome, sequel to 2014’s box-office hit. The advice derives from our hero’s beloved Aunt Lucy, 99 years old yet still going strong back in deepest, darkest Peru.
Yet her words of wisdom could almost stand as a mission statement for the film itself, which firmly sets out to be an even kinder and politer affair than its predecessor: a film that, for all its sweetness, still managed to spawn a “creepy Paddington” meme, while the BBFC forewarned consumers of its “dangerous behaviour, mild threat and innuendo”.
That pic, you’ll recall, featured Nicole Kidman as a mad taxidermist out to have Paddington stuffed and mounted at the National History Museum. Its sequel, in contrast, opts for a more buffoonish bad guy – a washed-up actor, now reduced to dog food commercials, with costly plans to put on a career-salvaging one-man show.
To do so, the pompous Phoenix Buchanan – played to the hilt by Hugh Grant, fresh from having his own career re-energised by Florence Foster Jenkins – needs a hidden fortune that can only be located with the help of a dusty old pop-up book from Mr Gruber’s antique shop. As chance would have it, this is the same tome Paddington wants to get his aunt for her 100th birthday, a coincidence that soon sets thespian and bear on a comic collision course.
Before that, however, we get to see Paddington join the workforce, first by getting a job at a gentlemen’s barbers (it doesn’t go well), and then by finding gainful employment as a furry window cleaner. Those who embraced the first movie for its pro-immigration stance may be tempted to read these slapstick scenes as an endorsement of migrant labour, not least when Paddington cleans The Shard with a calypso band for accompaniment.
On the whole, though, director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby keep the Brexit politics understated, presenting metropolitan multiculturalism as a life-enriching boon and confining their opprobrium to Peter Capaldi’s rabid Little Englander: a character who, needless to say, could not be happier when his ursine nemesis is arrested, framed and sent away to the big house for “grand theft and grievous barberly harm”.
The late Michael Bond never wrote a book called Paddington Goes to Jail. But had he done so, it might well have featured a prison chef every bit as fearsome as Brendan Gleeson’s Knuckles McGinty, a character so ill-tempered only the taste of freshly-made marmalade can calm him.
In a film as episodic as it is enjoyable, it’s fair to say this Porridge-style interlude goes on rather too long. Yet it does give rise to a rollicking jail break that ensures Paddington is on board for the elaborate steam-train finale, one that finds an unusual use for toffee apples while permitting Sally Hawkins’s otherwise under-utilised Mrs Brown to play a vitally heroic role.
Other moments of note include a towpath pursuit featuring a wolfhound and a goose, a lovely animated sequence involving familiar London landmarks and a flashback showing how Padds – voiced as decorously as ever by Skyfall’s Ben Whishaw – came to have an aunt in the first place. It all adds up to an engaging, rib-tickling and warm-hearted charmer that’s won us over long before Grant, hilarious game throughout, turns up at St Paul’s disguised as a nun.
THE VERDICT: State-of-the-art effects combine with playful, generous storytelling in a feelgood sequel only marmalade haters could resist.
Director: Paul King; Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi; Theatrical release: November 10, 2017
The Florida Project
Explosive and exuberant, Tangerine made a splash in 2015, thrusting its iPhone lens into a subculture of transgender sex workers in LA. Now shooting in 35mm, director Sean Baker, again co-writing with Chris Bergoch, once more scrutinises a marginalised community – this time the ‘hidden homeless’ who live week to week, day to day, in cheap motels.
Sounds like a tough watch? It’s not. Or rather it is, when it should be, but it also plays like a roughed-up Amblin movie, as gobby six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her pals tear around parking lots, along highways and through lush green fields over a long, hot summer. Moonee’s combative mum Halley (Bria Vinaite), meanwhile, loses her stripper job and starts scamming to make the rent.
Set in the shadow of Disney World, The Florida Project brims with brio and boasts crackerjack performances from a non-professional cast (Vinaite, a revelation, was found on Instagram), plus Caleb Landry Jones, Macon Blair and an A-game Willem Dafoe as the motel’s level-headed manager Bobby. It’s light on plot and high on energy and life – a movie worthy of mention in the same hot breath as Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Loach’s Kes.
THE VERDICT: Poverty and poetry, delinquency and deluxe wonder… this child’s-eye view of lives on a knife-edge is terrific.
Director: Sean Baker; Starring: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Kimberly Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto; Theatrical release: November 10, 2017
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Neatly timed post Wonder Woman, writer-director Angela Robinson’s drama is one eye-opening origin story. Delving into the genesis of DC Comics’ most famous female superhero, it tells of William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), a psychologist who was inspired by his polyamorous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), and student Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) to create everyone’s favourite Amazon.
While the script is structured around the ’40s scandal that threatened to engulf the comic – when regulators accused Marston of perverting young minds by filling the pages with S&M imagery – Marston’s ménage-à-trois forms the emotional stitching. Sensitively, Robinson avoids titillation to depict the trio as loving partners and parents.
Evans is robust as Marston, Hall sharp as Elizabeth and Heathcote luminous as Olive. How it feeds into Wonder Woman – right down to her bracelets – is fascinating, providing an unexpected peek at the blueprint for a feminist icon.
THE VERDICT: Whether or not you’re a fan of Wonder Woman, this tale of her creation is rich, evocative and enlightening.
Director: Angela Robinson; Starring: Rebecca Hall, Luke Evans, Bella Heathcote; Theatrical release: November 10, 2017
Only the Brave
“Let’s just do what we do!” growls Josh Brolin’s no-nonsense firefighter as he prepares to lead his team of Hotshots into another unchecked wildfire. What they do, of course, is put themselves in harm’s way to protect forests, homes and livelihoods – something Joseph Kosinski’s (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion) based-on-truth drama celebrates without fuss, sentiment or (burning bear apart) CGI embellishment.
Based on a magazine article whose title – ‘No Exit: The True Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots’ – gives a clue as to where this is heading, Only the Brave starts out as a standard loser-makes-good story. (Sensing there’s more to Miles Teller’s recovering junkie than meets the eye, Brolin gives him a spot on his crew and finds his instincts were right.) As both the plot and the conflagrations build in intensity, though, the movie takes on a different, more noble hue.
Along the way we get plenty of macho bonding, laddish hazing and a wily Jeff Bridges as the Hotshots’ surrogate father. (“If you want sympathy, you’ll find it in the dictionary – between shit and syphilis!”) Less of this might have meant a friendlier running time, though it might also have weakened a knockout finale that truly brings home the meaning of courage under fire.
THE VERDICT: Backdraft clichés notwithstanding, this is a stirring fact-based tribute to public servants putting it on the line.
Director: Joseph Kosinski; Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges; Theatrical release: November 10, 2017
A chilly, elegant and thought-provoking futuristic family drama, in which Jon Hamm’s Westworld-worthy hologram recreation of a deceased husband unearths hidden secrets between a widow (a mischievous Lois Smith) and her daughter.
Director: Michael Almereyda; Starring: Jon Hamm, Hannah Gross, Geena Davis; Theatrical release: November 10, 2017
Arnold Schwarzenegger meets his match in this 1987 creature feature: an extraterrestrial chameleon who hunts soldiers, sports Rastafarian dreadlocks and has luminous pus for blood.
Directed by John McTiernan, it’s an ’80s classic full of still-thrilling action, quotable one-liners (“Get to the chopper!” “Stick around!”) and sly digs at Uncle Sam’s penchant for unwinnable jungle wars.
Director: John McTiernan; Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall; Theatrical release: November 9, 2017
Félicité (Congolese theatre actor Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu) sings in rowdy bars in Kinshasa. She’s not exactly well paid – just getting her fridge repaired is a stretch – so when her teenage son’s injured, finding the cash for his operation demands desperate measures.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Berlin, French-African director Alain Gomis’ film paints a lacerating picture of a raucous, dangerous city.
Director: Alain Gomis; Starring: Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu, Gaetan Claudia, Papi Mpaka, le Kasai Allstars; Theatrical release: November 10, 2017
Writer/director Rupert Jones casts his brother Toby as a lonely, mentally disintegrating man who awakens to find a corpse in his bathroom and his domineering mother knocking at the front door.
Face crumpled, eyes darting, Jones captures the wounded humanity at the core of this psychological thriller. He feels the walls of his flat closing in; we feel the influence of Polanski and Hitchcock.
Director: Rupert Jones; Starring: Anne Reid, Sinead Matthews, Deborah Findlay; Theatrical release: November 10, 2017
A Caribbean Dream
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is retold in modern-day Barbados, charting the tangled love lives of unsuspecting islanders as fairies wreak amorous havoc.
Shakirah Bourne’s feature has a strong sense of place, with the colours of the Caribbean lending rich texture to the Bard’s joyous text. However, the film is held back by cut-rate special effects.
Director: Shakirah Bourne; Starring: Adrian Green, Susannah Harker, Sam Gillett; Theatrical release: November 10, 2017